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Magnesium and IBS

By Kate Beck

Irritable bowel syndrome, also known as IBS, is a condition of the intestines that affects approximately 20 percent of adults, according to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. This condition typically causes abdominal pain and discomfort, and many people experience frequent diarrhea or bouts of constipation. Flareups often result from diet or stress. As a result of this condition, people with IBS have a higher risk for nutrient deficiency, including low magnesium levels.


Magnesium contributes to the function of many body systems, playing a vital role in many of the chemical reactions that occur. You need magnesium to keep your heart and other organs working properly, and a deficiency in this nutrient could cause serious side effects. If IBS causes you to have prolonged periods of diarrhea, this could deplete your magnesium levels and result in a deficiency.

Signs of Deficiency

If you have a magnesium deficiency you may experience symptoms such as upset stomach, weakness and fatigue. You may also notice that you have uncontrolled muscle movements, muscle cramps, seizures or changes in your heart rhythm. These symptoms require immediate medical attention. Your doctor may test your blood to determine your magnesium level and make treatment recommendations as necessary.

Recommended Intake

The average adult needs between 310mg and 420mg of magnesium each day. Your doctor will determine the amount you should aim for each day. If you do not have a high risk for deficiency, your doctor may recommend eating magnesium-rich foods. These include almonds, offering 80mg in one ounce, as well as cooked spinach, which provides 75mg for a half-cup serving. Other foods include potatoes, halibut, lentil, avocado and kidney beans.


You may require daily magnesium supplements if you experience chronic diarrhea from IBS. These supplements may help you maintain a certain amount of this nutrient. If you suspect that you have low magnesium levels, do not start taking supplements without first contacting your doctor. She can test your blood to determine your risk for a deficiency and recommend treatment as necessary.

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